December, thanks to its proximity to a wide array of religious holidays, has sort of become the unofficial month of giving. Come Christmas/Hannukah/Festivus/Saturnalia, living rooms across the world will be filled with crumpled wrapping paper, discarded boxes, and happy faces. We absolutely love the Holiday Season because of the level of generosity that seems to radiate from everyone.
Of course, that generosity doesn’t stop at families and friends. Charities typically register record levels of donations during December, and many have events throughout the month specifically to gather as many donations as possible during the “month of giving.” Businesses typically love to do their part as well, holding their own events to try and help sponsor charities. But an all too frequent problem with this has once again been seen, though it was in a place only possible in our highly connected, social media driven world.
The social media community was very recently rocked at the astounding donation that Reddit’s r/atheism community gave to Doctors Without Borders – as of this posting they are at $152,000 being donated, shattering their $75,000 goal and rocketing past the previous December campaigns. Two slightly less active/less subscribed to communities are also holding their own campaigns in solidarity with r/atheism – r/christianity has $14,000 pledged to Doctors without Borders and r/Islam has promised $1,500.
All of this is completely user driven, primarily through the site’s voting system that allows users to upvote the posts they like. Typically, users will make a post saying they will donate X amount for every upvote that post gets to a certain point, and then prove they donated. This system however has some wondering at what point does this stop being generous and start becoming self-serving.
After all, why don’t they just donate the money and stop asking people to recognize what they are doing?
The answer is, of course, that this is all done to raise awareness as well as money. A dollar is great, but a dollar and some free recognition for the charity is even better.
But questioning the motive behind these types of campaigns is always something that comes up. If you are looking at holding your own charity event for your small business, think about the following while you plan it:
1. Is the focus the charity, or your business?
This is a big problem that a lot of businesses end up facing, and one reason why some charities are apprehensive to link their 501(c)(3) status with some companies. After all, how the business presents itself will reflect directly on the charity it is trying to help. While a company or CEO or PR team may have the charity’s best interest at heart, they may also see this more as a marketing opportunity. This in and of itself is not a terrible thing, and some good publicity is always expected when linking up with a charity, but if it becomes clear that the only reason a company is holding some sort of donation drive is to better its image then there will be backlash. The decentralized nature of Reddit allowed its users to individually deal with the whatever allegations against them emerged. A corporation or company that has a single figurehead simply cannot do the same, so if you are going to push for a donation drive, remember to always put the charity before your company.
2. What do you expect to accomplish?
This is key, and helps you deal with the inevitable, “Why not just donate and stop bothering us?” question that, we promise you, will arise. The go-to answer tends to be to raise awareness in the community about the charity du jour. Sometimes, though, that may not be the case. The answer could be much more personal than that, in which a bit of honesty and humanity can go a long way to help your efforts in raising money. You can also find the answer in the other direction. For example, they might have been the only charity willing to team up with you and raise money. While this sounds a little odd, more charities reject offers from businesses to raise money than you would think. But even if that is the case, there is some reason why you made the final decision to go with them instead of continuing to ask around, or scrapping the campaign entirely. Have an answer prepared and know exactly what you like about the charity you are teaming up with. Are they small but effective? Do they have a broad reach? Do you like how local their campaigns are? Knowing what you want to accomplish with them and why will be instrumental in determining the campaign’s effectiveness.
3. Can you handle derision if it comes?
This is the final and most important question. Even if you ensure that the focus is the charity, and even if you have a great personal answer to the question about what you expect to accomplish, you will still be likely hit with some derision. This may take the form of an angry post on your Facebook wall, a phone call, or even some public figure accusing you of trying to profit from charity. Sometimes you just have to smile and let the flame burn- remember, the focus has to be the charity. The more you make it about your business or your motivations, the less the focus is on the campaign and the more you hurt your own efforts. Know when to step back, take a deep breath, and smile!
The entire purpose of any fundraising campaign is to help a non-profit continue its mission. Do all that you can to make the campaign a success while remembering the purpose and be proud that you helped a worthwhile cause.